‘People just want you to succeed’

When you meet Carina McEvoy, you’re immediately struck by her brightness and, yes, her niceness. She’s happy, bubbly, and excited about the launch of her debut novel, To Have, Not Hold.img_5161

This novel is the result of years spent writing – an activity she took up in her teens to express the emotions as she went through a maelstrom of depression, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety.

“I found writing therapeutic – I wrote poetry and enjoyed getting lost in trying to find words to express my feelings,” she says over a cappuccino in a Gorey coffee shop.

She continued writing, went to college, worked as a secondary school teacher, got married, had children – but the anxiety was still there.

“My head was busy and I was always worrying. So I decided to make the anxiety work for me. And, while I was driving, or ironing, or whatever, I put my effort into thinking about characters, plots, storylines.”

Now she blogs and uses Twitter and Facebook to share her story and offer encouragement on everything from Leaving Cert worries to staying in the moment.

This sense of spreading the word about mental health is vital in a country where so much stigma is still attached to mental health issues. “I’m working on a project to being positive mental health education and resilience into every school. They should teach about mental health and cognitive behavioural therapy in schools, starting in primary school.img_6441

“And the Leaving Cert structure should be changed – there’s too much pressure. We’re taught academic subjects, but not about resilience, or coping, or taking responsibility for ourselves. I had a lot of self-inflicted pressure about the Leaving Cert.”

Even though she had “a horrific time in school”, Carina worked as a career guidance teacher, and later as a business and geography teacher. Now on a career break, she says, “I loved being with students and loved the pastoral care of my work. My principal said I have a special antenna for identifying when pupils need help.

Today, her focus is on spreading the word about her self-published novel, To Have, Not Hold, which is launched in Byrne’s Bookshop, Gorey, in September. It is available in Byrne’s bookshops in Gorey, Enniscorthy, and Wexford, as well as The Book Cafe, Gorey, and Amazon, Kindle, iBooks and other sites. “I was working on another novel, but this book has been received so well and people want more from these characters – so I’m now sketching a plotline for a follow on novel.”

“My favourite thing about Gorey and North Wexford? The sense of community spirit and support. From the day I published my novel, I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I’ve received. At the launch night in Byrne’s Bookstore in Gorey, people were queueing to talk to me. And I’ve received loads of messages – people just want you to succeed.”

Interview: Deirdre O’Flynn

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